The royal decree ordered Palos to have its contribution ready in ten days; meanwhile, a third caravel was to be bought; but so violently were the people of Palos opposed to the enterprise that not a single ship- owner would sell his vessel. Another difficulty was to get a crew of experienced seamen. With very few exceptions, sailors were afraid to go out on the unexplored Atlantic Ocean beyond the Azores. Spanish sailors had not had the excellent schooling of those in Portugal, where, for seventy years or more, expeditions had been going out to discover new lands and coming back safely.
Columbus, therefore, found it difficult to induce the sea-going men of Palos to share his enthusiasm. This difficulty of getting a crew together must have been foreseen at court, for the royal secretary issued an order intended to help Columbus, but which instead hurt his cause and proved most unwise. The curious order in question was to the effect that all criminals who would sign for the expedition would be "privileged from arrest or further imprisonment for any offense or crime committed by them up to this date, and during the time they might be on the voyage, and for two months after their return from the voyage."
To criminals, apparently, being devoured by monsters rimming the western Atlantic appeared a better fate than languishing in a cruel Spanish prison, for the first men who enlisted were from this class. A more unfortunate method of recruiting a crew could hardly be imagined. Such men were undesirable, not only because of their lawless character, but also because they had never before sailed on a ship; and the more this class rallied to the front, the more the respectable sailors of Palos, Moguer, Huelva, and other adjacent towns hung back. To go forth into the unknown was bad enough; to go there in the society of malefactors was even worse.
Here again Juan Perez, the good priest of La Rabida, and Pinzon, the friendly navigator of Palos, came forward and helped. Friar Juan went among the population exhorting them to have faith in Columbus as he had faith in him; he explained to them all that he understood of geography, and how, according to his understanding, the Italian was sure to succeed. As we know, a priest was often the only educated man in an entire community, and was looked up to accordingly; and so Friar Juan was able to persuade several respectable men to enter Columbus's service. As for Pinzon, both his moral and his practical support were so great that it is doubtful whether the expedition could have been arranged without him. Long before, at the Rabida conference, he had offered to go as captain; now he induced his two brothers to sign also. Palos, seeing three members of its most important family ready to go, took heart. Pinzon next helped to find the three vessels needed, and put them in order. One of these ships belonged to Juan de la Cosa, a well- known pilot, and Juan himself was prevailed upon to sail with it. (Later this Juan became a great explorer and made the first map of the New World.) Another and less fortunate purchase was of a vessel whose owners regretted the sale the moment they had parted with her; so down they went to where the calkers and painters were making her seaworthy for the voyage, and tried to persuade them to do everything just as badly as it could be done. One can readily see that these were hard days for Christopher Columbus. The preparations that Queen Isabella expected would take only ten days took ten long weeks.
When finally ready, Columbus's little fleet consisted of three caravels —the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina (pronounced Neen'ya). A caravel was a small, roundish, stubby sort of craft, galley-rigged, with a double tower at the stern and a single one in the bow. It was much used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for the herring fisheries which took men far from the coast; and when the Portuguese tried to find far-off India, they too used the caravel form of vessel.
The largest vessel of the "Discovery Fleet" was only sixty-five or seventy feet long by about twenty feet in breadth, and of one hundred tons' burden; Columbus having purposely chosen small ships because they would be better adapted for going close to shore and up rivers. Only the Santa Maria was decked amidships, the others had their cabins at either end. The cross was painted on all the sails. Columbus commanded the Santa Maria, with Juan de la Cosa as pilot; Martin Alonzo Pinzon took the Pinta, and his brother Vincente (pronounced Vin- then'tay) took the Nina.
All told, one hundred men went forth on the famous voyage (although some writers put it at one hundred and twenty) and a number of these had never been to sea before. Among the hundred was a notary to draw up all papers of ownership (when it came to dividing Columbus's tenth part of the gold, precious stones, etc., that should be found); a historian, to keep an official record of all that should occur; a metallurgist, to examine ores; and an orientalist, learned in foreign tongues, who would interpret what the western peoples might say to the newcomers who claimed the heathen lands for Spain. Besides these, there were two other learned men—a physician and a surgeon. Columbus himself was to act as map-maker and chart-maker. Strange to say, there is no record of a priest accompanying the expedition.
The great seriousness of the undertaking was felt more and more in Palos as work on the little caravels progressed. People spoke of it in awed tones and shook their heads dismally. Every day during the last week or two all the crew went religiously and faithfully to church. Columbus, being a religious man, no doubt approved of this; yet it surely would have sent him forth in better spirits if his crew had looked upon his venture more light-heartedly, and less as if they were foredoomed to destruction.
Now that we know the sort of men and ships that were to take part in this mighty enterprise, let us see the sort of charts and maps and instruments our navigator carried along; for until one understands these somewhat, one cannot realize the bravery it took to set out across the Atlantic in 1492. First, as to maps. Now that this world of ours has been so thoroughly explored that every bit of land and water is named and accurately noted, it is difficult for us to understand how the inaccurate, incomplete, fifteenth-century map could have been of any use whatever to an explorer. But we must always remember that our Genoese had a rich imagination. Our maps leave nothing to the imagination, either of the man who makes them or of us who look at them. Fifteenth- century maps, on the contrary, were a positive feast for the fifteenth- century imagination! Their wild beasts and queer legends fascinated as well as terrified. Their three distinct Indies, two in Asia and one in Africa, offered every sailor who was intrepid enough a chance to reach that region of wealth. The latest and most accurate map, marking the Portuguese discoveries, would really have been helpful to any one who had not the "Go West" idea so firmly fixed in his mind; but in that one direction it marked no routes farther than the Madeiras and the Azores. All beyond these islands was wholly imagination.
It was the same with the sea-charts; no soundings or currents were marked. As to instruments, there were the lodestone and the compass, which had been known and used for several centuries; and the astrolabe, a recent improvement on the primitive quadrant for taking the altitude of the sun. The hourglass was the time measurer. In short, in that wonderful fifteenth century, when the surface of the world was doubled, there was nothing scientific about navigation.
Beyond these slight aids, Christopher Columbus had to rely on an imperfect knowledge of astronomy and on those practical observations of wind and weather and water that he had made during his own voyages. Such slender equipment, plus the tub-like little caravels, would not have invited many men to try unknown waters, unless such men had Christopher's blessed gifts of imagination and persistency.
At last the solemn hour has come to those quaking Palos souls. It is early dawn of August 3, and a Friday at that! The Santa Maria and the Pinta and the Nina are moored out in the copper- colored river, ready to go with the tide. Last night the last sack of flour and the last barrel of wine came aboard; likewise, the last straggler of the crew, for they must be ready for the early tide. It is still quite dark, and on the shore all Palos appears to be running about with lanterns. Friar Juan is there to wring the hands of the one-time wanderer who came to his gate, and to assure him that one of the Rabida monks will conduct Columbus's little son Diego safely to Cordova. Columbus is rowed out to the largest ship. He gives the command and those ashore hear the pulling up of anchors, the hoisting of sails, and the cutting of moorings. Then the flags are raised—the Admiral's with a great cross in the center—and down the murky Tinto go the three little caravels with their unwilling, frightened, human freight. Those on shore turn tearfully into church to pray; and those aboard watch the dim outline of Palos fade away; by and by they notice that the reddish Tinto has become the blue ocean sparkling in the early sunshine; but no sparkle enters their timid souls. They can only keep looking longingly backward till the last tawny rocks of Spain and Portugal are left behind, and then there is nothing to do but sigh and mutter a dismal prayer. But Christopher's prayer is one of thankfulness.
On the fourth day out from Palos the Pinta's rudder became loose, and unless the damage could be speedily repaired the ship would soon be a prey to current and wind. The Pinta was the vessel whose owners repented having sold her. No wonder then that Columbus suspected the rascals of having bribed the crew to tamper with the rudder, in the hope of forcing their ship to put back into Palos. But he would not put back, he declared. Martin Pinzon was commanding the Pinta, and Martin knew what to do with perverse rudders and perverse men. He immediately set to work to have the damage repaired. The ship's carpenter must have done his work very badly, however, for the following day the rudder was again disabled. Still Columbus would not turn back and risk the chance of all his crew deserting him. Instead, he continued sailing southwest to the Canaries—the point from which the shipwrecked pilot was supposed to have started on his unexpected trip across the Atlantic. These beautiful islands, from which the imposing peak of Teneriffe rises, had been known to the ancients as "The Fortunate Isles"; Spain now owned them and had colonized them, and after the great discovery they became a regular stopping-place for western-bound vessels.
When Columbus came to repair the rudder, he found the entire ship to be in even worse order than he had supposed. She was full of leaks, and her poor sails were not of the right shape to respond to heavy ocean breezes. He would have given her up altogether could he have found another boat to take her place; but the sparsely settled Canaries of 1492 were not the much-visited winter resort that they are to-day; no big ships were then in the harbors; and so there was nothing to do but patch up the Pinta and change the shape of her sails.
While this was being done, Columbus's waiting crew became acquainted with the Spanish colonists, and with very good results; for these islanders had a curious delusion to the effect that every year, at a certain season, they saw land far off to the west. Men were very credulous in those days. It is probable that their "land" was nothing more than clouds which, owing to certain winds of that particular region, lie low on the horizon for a long time; but the people of the Canaries, and of the Madeiras too, all firmly believed they saw Antilla and the other "western lands" of legend; and Columbus, nodding his head wisely, told how the king of Portugal had shown him some reeds, as large as those of India, that had been washed up on the western shore of the Azores. "We shall find land seven hundred and fifty leagues from here," he repeated over and over, for that was the distance the pilot said he had gone. So sure was Columbus that, on leaving the islands, he handed each pilot sealed instructions to cease navigating during the night after they had gone seven hundred leagues.
The tales and delusions that flourished in the Canaries put heart into the crew, so when the little squadron again set forth on September 6 the men were less hostile to the expedition.
Some excitement was given to this fresh start by a rumor, brought from one of the islands, that Portuguese ships were seeking the Spanish fleet, in order to punish Columbus for having sailed in the service of Spain instead of Portugal. As the pursuers never were seen by the Spanish ships, that story, too, may have been some islander's delusion; but it made the crew believe that Columbus's undertaking must look promising to the great navigating Portuguese nation, or they would not be jealous of Spain's enterprise.
More than a month had now passed since Columbus had left Palos, and only a hundred miles out from the African coast were accomplished! Was ever a man subjected to more delays than our patient discoverer! And now, when at last he was ready to start due west, a strong head sea prevailed for two days and would not let them push forward. So that it was actually not until September 8 that the voyage toward the "western lands" may be said to have begun.
We have mentioned that Columbus kept a diary on this voyage. He was, in fact, a prodigious writer, having left behind him when he died a vast quantity of memoirs, letters, and even good verse; and besides these, maps and charts in great numbers. No matter how trying the day had been, with fractious crews and boisterous ocean, no matter how little sleep the anxious commander had had the night before, no matter how much the ill-smelling swinging lamp in his cabin rocked about, he never failed to write in his journal.
This precious manuscript was long in the possession of Columbus's friend Bartolome de las Casas, who borrowed it because he was writing a history of Columbus and wished to get all the information, possible in the navigator's own words.
Las Casas was a monk who spent his life in befriending the Indians. When quite old, he ceased journeying to the New World and stayed at home writing history. He copied a great deal of Columbus's diary word for word, and what he did not actually copy he put into other words. In this way, although the original log of the Santa Maria no longer exists, its contents have been saved for us, and we know the daily happenings on that first trip across the Atlantic.
Nearly every day some little phenomenon was observed which kept up the spirits of the crew. On September 13 one of them saw a bright-colored bird, and the sight encouraged everybody; for instead of thinking that it had flown unusually far out from its African home, they thought it belonged to the new land they were soon to see. Three days later they saw large patches of seaweed and judged they would soon see at least a tiny island. On the 18th the mended Pinta, which had run ahead of the other two boats, reported that a large flock of birds had flown past; next day two pelicans hovered around, and all the sailors declared that a pelican never flew more than sixty or seventy miles from home. On September 21 a whale was seen—"an indication of land," wrote the commander, "as whales always keep near the coast." The next day there was a strong head wind, and though it kept them back from the promised land, Columbus was glad it blew. "This head wind was very necessary for me," he wrote, "because the crew dreaded that they might never meet in these seas with a fair wind to drive them back to Spain."
Soon they were passing through the Sargasso Sea (named from the Portuguese word meaning "floating seaweed"). Its thick masses of drifting vegetation reassured them, for the silly legend that it could surround and embed a ship had not then found believers. Many years after it was discovered that several undercurrents met there and died down, leaving all their seaweed to linger on the calm, currentless surface. But back in 1492 the thicker the seaweed, the surer were those sailors that it indicated land.
Birds and seaweed, seaweed and birds, for over two weeks. Then on September 25 the monotony was broken. Captain Martin Pinzon called out from the Pinta that he saw land. Columbus says that when he heard this shout, he fell on his knees and thanked God. Scanning the horizon, he too thought he saw land; all of the next day they sailed with every eye fixed on a far-off line of mountains which never appeared any nearer. At last the supposed mountains literally rose and rolled away! It was nothing but low-lying clouds, such as those the Canary Islanders had mistaken for terra firma.
Christopher's heart must have sunk, for they had come over seven hundred leagues, and for two days he had supposed he was gazing on the island of his search.
In spite of this disappointment they kept on, for a plant floated by that had roots which had grown in the earth; also a piece of wood that had been rudely carved by man; and the number of birds kept increasing. One can readily see how even the most skeptical man on the expedition should have felt sure by this time that the man whom he used to consider a mild maniac was in truth a very wise person. And perhaps the crew did feel it; but also they felt angry at those signs that mocked them day after day by never coming true. They grumbled; and the more the signs increased the more they grumbled; till finally one morning Columbus came on deck and found that his own helmsman had turned the Santa Maria eastward, and all the crew were standing by in menacing attitudes.
The other two ships, as we have seen, were commanded by the Pinzon brothers; and they, being natives of Palos, had secured all the respectable Palos men who were willing to enlist; but Columbus had only the worst element—the jail-birds and loafers from other towns. And here they stood, saying plainly by their manner, "We are going back! What are you going to do about it?"
We don't know exactly what he did do about it; Martin Alonzo Pinzon sent him advice to "hang a few of the rebels; and if you can't manage to hang them, I and my brothers will row to your ship and do it." But Christopher appears to have handled the situation without their help, and without hanging any one; for soon the helmsman swung the Santa Maria around again. On October 10 trouble broke out afresh, and Columbus makes this entry in his diary:—
"The crew, not being able to stand the length of the voyage, complained to me, but I reanimated them."
By October 10 the voyage had lasted some seventy days! No wonder the crew needed to be "reanimated." Yet, there were the birds flying out to them, bringing their message of hope, if only the poor frightened men could have had more faith! The Pinzons meanwhile were having less trouble; for when their sailors wished to turn back because nothing had been found seven hundred and fifty leagues west of the Canaries, Martin Alonzo told them all the absurd tales he had read about Cipango, and promised them, if only they went ahead, that its wealth would make their fortune. This appears to have hushed their murmuring; but Christopher had no such flowery promises to hold forth.
Martin Pinzon, having observed a few days before that most of the birds flew from the southwest rather than the exact west, suggested to Columbus that land probably lay nearer in that direction; and Columbus, to please him, changed his course. It is interesting to speculate on what might have happened had Pinzon not interfered, for the fleet, by continuing due west, would have shortly entered the Gulf Stream, and this strong current would surely have borne them northward to a landing on the coast of the future United States. But this was not to be. On Pinzon's advice the rudders were set for the southwest, and nothing happened for several days except that same passing of birds. On October 11 a fresh green branch floated by; and Columbus, after dark had fallen, declared he saw a light moving at a distance.
Calling two of his sailors, he pointed it out to them. One agreed that there was certainly a light bobbing up and down, but the other insisted that he could see nothing. Columbus did not feel sure enough of his "light" to claim that it meant land, so he called the ships together and reminded the crews that their sovereigns had offered to the one who should first see the shore a pension of ten thousand maravedis (about twenty-five dollars) a year. In addition, he himself would give a further reward of a silk doublet. This caused them all to keep a sharp watch; but land it surely meant, that fitful light which Columbus saw, for that very night—or about two o'clock in the morning of October 12 —Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor on the Pinta, shouted "Tierra! Tierra!" and sure enough, as the dawn grew brighter, there lay a lovely little green island stretched before their sea-weary eyes!
Who can imagine the tremendous emotions of that famous October morning! Here were a hundred men who had just demonstrated that the world was round; for by sailing west they had reached the east—if, as many were ready to believe, they had come to Martin Alonzo's Cipango! The world really was a sphere! and at no point in rounding it had they been in danger of falling off! Here they stood, that marvelous morning of October 12, on Cipango or some other island off Asia, as they supposed, with the soles of their feet against the feet of those back in Palos, and the fact did not even make them feel dizzy. We who have always known that the earth is a sphere with a marvelous force in its center drawing toward it all objects on the surface; we who have always known that ships by the thousands cross the great oceans from one continent to another; we who have always known that the whole inhabited earth has long since been explored,—we who were born to such an accumulation of knowledge can never realize what was the amazement, the joy, of that little handful of men who, after three lonely months on the unknown ocean, at last reached unsuspected land.
And the humble Genoese sailor man,—what were his emotions on the great morning that transformed him into Don Cristobal Colon, Admiral and Viceroy under their Highnesses, the king and queen of Spain. Let us hope that he did not think too much about these titles, for we ourselves don't think about them at all. We are only trying to grasp the joy it must have given him to know that he had been true to his grand purpose; that he had waited and suffered for it; and that now, after declaring he could find lands in the unknown ocean, he had found them. Quite right was he to put on his scarlet cloak for going ashore, for he had conquered the terrors of the deep!
How eagerly they all clambered into the small boats and rowed toward the shore, Columbus and the Pinzon brothers and the notary in the first boat load. The new Admiral carried the royal standard, and when they leaped ashore, he planted it in the ground and took possession of the island for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Then on a little hill they put up a wooden cross and all knelt before it and poured out their gratitude to God.
NATIVES OF THE NEW LAND
Columbus christened his little coral island San Salvador. The natives called it Guanahani; but should you look for it on your map you may not find it under either its native or its Spanish name, for there was no way, at that early date, of making an accurate map of the whole Bahama group, and the name San Salvador somehow became shifted in time to another island. Thus was the original landfall long lost sight of, and no two writers could agree on the subject. Recently, however, the most careful students have decided upon the reef now called Watling's Island, to-day an English possession, as Columbus's first landing-place.
When you see that it is but a tiny dot in the ocean, you may think it an insignificant spot to have been the scene of the most momentous event of the Renaissance; you may feel inclined to scold at that well-meaning Martin Pinzon for asking to have the rudders changed in order to find his Cipango. But it must be remembered that to have found anything at all was an unparalleled feat; and furthermore, that wee San Salvador was not the end of Columbus's expedition; it was merely the beginning, merely the lighting of that great torch of enterprise and investigation which was not to be extinguished till the whole American continent and the whole Pacific Ocean had been explored and mapped out. Columbus that day started an electric current through the brain of every European mariner. To discover something across the Atlantic was henceforth in the very air, and the results were tremendous.
But to return to those happy Spanish sailors who on that October morn of 1492 at last planted their feet on terra firma. To explore the little island did not take long. They found it to be full of green trees and strange luscious fruits. There were no beasts, large or small, only gay parrots. The natives, guiltless of clothing, were gentle creatures who supposed their strange visitors had come from Heaven and reverenced them accordingly. As the two groups stood looking at each other for the first time, the natives must have been by far the more astonished. Spanish eyes were used to races other than the white; they all knew the brownish Moor; and alas, many of them knew the black Ethiopian too; for, once the Portuguese started slave-snatching down the African coast, the Spaniards became their customers, so that by this time, 1492, there were a good many African slaves in Spain. But the Bahama natives knew of no race but their own; so what could these undreamed-of visitors be but divine? Here is Columbus's own description of what happened when the white man and the red man had scraped acquaintance with each other:—
"As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted and became greatly attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for glass beads and hawks' bells, which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole a very poor people. They all were completely naked. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made and with fine shapes and faces; their hair short and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed towards the forehead except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, others with white, others with red, others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, some the whole body. Others only the eyes, others only the nose. Weapons they have none; nor are they acquainted with them. For I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and no thing more than sticks with fishbones or other thing at the ends. I saw some men with scars of wounds upon their bodies and inquired by signs the cause of these. They answered me by signs that other people came from islands in the neighborhood and tried to make prisoners of them and they defended themselves. ....It appears to me that these people are ingenious and would make very good servants, and I am of the opinion that they would readily become Christians as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses that they may learn our language."
In this brief entry in the Admiral's diary there is a whole volume to those who can read between the lines, and a painful volume too, as much history is. Glass beads and little tinkling bells, you see, were all ready to be distributed from the caravels; a proof that Columbus had not expected to reach the Asiatic Indies, for those Indians were known to be sharp and experienced traders. How did Columbus happen to know that it would be wise to carry rubbish along with him? Ah, that was something found out when he left Porto Santo to accompany the Portuguese expedition to Guinea; had he not seen the Portuguese commander exchange ounces of bright beads for pounds of ivory and gold?
And so he, Christopher Columbus, came prepared for similar trade in his western lands; the world, we see, was hunting for bargains, trying to get much for little in the fifteenth century, just as it still is in the twentieth! Then again, look at the Admiral's innocent remark, "I think they would make excellent servants." That is still the rule to-day; the trained man sees in the untrained only a servant. It was perfectly natural that the Spanish eye should instantly see that little island converted into a Spanish plantation with those simple, gentle creatures who "learn easily" working it. And lastly, let us look into this sentence: "I intend taking some of them home to show your Majesties." It never occurred to the Admiral to add, "if they are willing to come with me." Indeed, it seldom occurred to any Christian of Christopher Columbus's day that a non-Christian, and especially a savage one, had the same human instincts as a Christian, and that he would have preferred staying in his own land and with his own family. Out of that horrible but common mistake grew up the whole miserable business of kidnapping, buying, and selling human beings. Let us not be too greatly shocked at our fifteenth-century hero for talking so unfeelingly. Remember, it was only about fifty years ago that we saw the last of slavery in these United States, and even then it died hard. Christopher was, on most moral questions, merely a man of his time, a fact to be kept in mind as we read of his later voyages.
"They answered me by signs," wrote Columbus. In other words, the linguist of the expedition, the man learned in Asiatic tongues, had not been able to make himself understood on San Salvador; and neither was he when they sailed on among the other islands. Clearly, these little specks of land in the ocean were not the large and extravagantly rich island of Japan which Martin Alonzo Pinzon had hoped to find. When Columbus asked these friendly people for "Cipango," they looked blank and shook their heads; so did all the other islanders he met during his three months' cruise among the West Indies. All of the new-found people were of the same race, spoke the same language, and were equally ignorant of Cipango and Cathay and India,—lands of rich cities and temples and marble bridges, and pearls and gold. Columbus had found only "a poor people," with no clothes and hardly a sign of a golden ornament. True, when he "inquired by signs" where their few golden trinkets came from, they pointed vaguely to the south as if some richer land lay there. And so the Admiral, as we must now call him, never gave up hope. If, as Pinzon still believed, they had discovered Asiatic islands, somewhere on the mainland he must surely come upon those treasures which the Moors had been bringing overland by caravan for centuries past. He could not go for the treasure this trip; this was nothing more than a simple voyage of discovery; but he would come and find the wealth that would enable the Spanish monarchs to undertake a new crusade to the Holy Land.
October ran into November and November into December, and the Admiral was still finding islands. He had come, on October 21, to such a far- reaching coast that he agreed with Martin Pinzon that it must be the mainland, or Cathay, and started eagerly to follow it west. But the natives near the shore were timid and fled at the approach of the strangers. No splendid cities of marble palaces, nor even any mean little villages of huts, were in sight; so two of the sailors were sent inland to explore and find the capital of the country. After three days the explorers returned and reported that all they had seen were many, many naked savages who dwelt in tiny huts of wood and straw, and who had the curious custom of rolling up a large dry leaf called tobago, lighting it at one end, and drawing the smoke up through their nostrils. Obviously, another "poor people" like those of San Salvador; they were not the rich and civilized Chinese that Marco Polo had written about. Neither capital nor king had they, and their land, they told the explorers, was surrounded by water. They called it Colba. It was, in fact, the modern Cuba which Columbus had discovered.
Instead of continuing west along Cuba's northern shore till he came to the end of it, the Admiral preferred to turn east and see what lay in that direction. It was one of the few times when Columbus's good judgment in navigation deserted him; for had he kept west he might have learned from the natives that what we call Florida lay beyond, and Florida was the continent; or, even if the natives had nothing to communicate, west would have been the logical direction for him to take after leaving the extremity of Cuba, had he fully shared Pinzon's belief that Asia lay beyond the islands. But no, without waiting to get to the extremity of Cuba, Columbus retraced his course east, as if expecting to find there the one, definite thing which, according to his friend, Las Casas, he had come to find.
On November 12 he writes: "A canoe came out to the ship with sixteen young men; five of them climbed aboard, whom I ordered to be kept so as to have them with us; I then sent ashore to one of the houses and took seven women and three children; this I did in order that the five men might tolerate their captivity better with company." No doubt he treated the natives kindly, but one can readily understand that their families and friends back on the island must have felt outraged at this conduct on the white man's part.
The strange thing is that Columbus, so wise in many ways, did not understand it too, in spite of the miserably mean ideas which prevailed in his day regarding the heathen. But the very fact that he notes so frankly how he captured the natives shows that neither he, nor those who were to read his journal, had any scruples on the subject. All moral considerations aside, it was tactless indeed to treat the natives thus in islands where he hoped to have his own men kindly received.
On Cuba the boats were calked and scraped, and the Admiral superintended the operations. He was always a busy, busy man, on land or sea. Being a great lover of nature, he left this nautical business for a while and traveled a few days inland; and of every native he met he asked that same question that he had been asking among all these lovely islands, "Is there any gold or pearls or spices?" No, that land lies west, far west; thus Columbus understood the sign answer; but after following a native in that direction for a long time, he had to give it up, for the time being. When he returned to the beach, Martin Pinzon showed him a big stick of cinnamon wood for which, in his absence, one of the sailors had traded a handful of beads.
"The native had quantities of it," Martin assured his Admiral.
"Then why didn't the sailor get it all?"
"Because," and here Martin grew malicious, "you ordered that they could trade only a little, so that you could do most of it yourself!"
And now the native had gone, and the rueful Admiral never saw him nor his cinnamon again!
At last, sailing along Cuba, he came to its end; and from there he could see another island eighteen leagues off. This was what we call Haiti, or San Domingo. The ships sailed over to Haiti, and the Admiral was so pleased with its aspect that he christened it Hispaniola, or little Hispania, which is Latin for Spain; but as Spain is called by its own people Espana, Hispaniola soon became Espanola.
THE RETURN IN THE NINA
Espanola, or Haiti, the name we know it by, evidently corresponded to all of the Admiral's preconceived notions of what he was to find in the western waters. He describes it in his diary as the loveliest island they had yet seen; its thousands of trees "seemed to reach to Heaven." Any one who had lived long in Spain, where trees are few and small, must have taken great delight in the sight of a real forest, and so Columbus wrote much on the beauties of Haiti. Scratch away with your pen, good Admiral, and tell us about the trees, and the lovely nights that are like May in Cordova, and the gold mine which the natives say is on the island. Enjoy the spot while you may, for bitter days are coming when its very name will sadden you. Could you but see into the unknown future as clearly as you saw into the unknown west, you would hurry away from lovely "little Spain" as fast as your rickety caravel would take you! Troubles in plenty are awaiting you!
But the skillfulest mariner cannot know what to-morrow may bring forth. How was even an "Admiral of the Ocean Seas" to know that when he went to bed on Christmas Eve, his helmsman would soon sneak from his post and hand the rudder to a little cabin-boy. The night was calm and warm, as December generally is in those southern waters. The Admiral had been up night and day when cruising along the Cuban coast, and now thought he might safely take a few hours' repose. Few hours, indeed, for soon after midnight he hears the cabin-boy screaming "danger!" A strong, unsuspected current has carried the tiller out of his weak hands, and the Santa Maria is scraping on a sandy bottom. Instantly the Admiral is on deck, and the disobedient helmsman is roused from his sleep. At once Columbus sees that their only possible salvation is to launch the ship's boat and lay out an anchor well astern; he orders the helmsman and another sailor—for they are all rushing on deck now—to do so. But the minute they touch water the frightened, contemptible creatures row quickly away and ask the Nina to take them aboard. The Santa Maria grates a little farther down into the sand bar and swings sidewise. Columbus orders them to cut the mainmast away, hoping to steady her some, but it proves useless; the ship's seams are opening; the water is rushing in; they must abandon her to her fate. So they all follow that cur of a helmsman and crowd on to the Nina. Did ever a Christmas morning dawn more dismally?
The island of Haiti had several kings or caciques. The one who lived near the Admiral's landing place had been extremely friendly to his strange visitors, and when in the morning he saw their sad plight, he sent all the people of the town out in large canoes to unload the ship. He himself came down to the shore and took every precaution that the goods should be brought safely to land and cared for. The next day, Wednesday, December 26, the diary recorded:—
"At sunrise the king visited the Admiral on board the Nina and entreated him not to indulge in grief, for he would give him all he had; that he had already assigned the wrecked Spaniards on shore two large houses, and if necessary would grant others and as many canoes as could be used in bringing the goods and crews to land—which in fact he had been doing all the day before without the slightest trifle being purloined."
Nor did his aid end here; when Columbus decided to build a fort and storehouse out of the Santa Maria's timbers, the natives helped in that too.
In the fort it was decided to leave about forty men "with a provision of bread and wine for more than a year, seed for planting, the long boat of the ship, a calker, a carpenter, a gunner, and many other persons who have earnestly desired to serve your Highnesses and oblige me by remaining here and searching for the gold mine."
Columbus was, in short, planting the first settlement in the New World. As the disaster had occurred on Christmas morning, he called the town "La Navidad" (the Nativity). To govern it he left a trusty friend, Diego de Arana, whose sister was little Fernando's mother. Columbus drew up a few excellent rules for the conduct of his colonists, and made them a wise address besides. Then he loaded a gun and fired it into the hull of his stranded ship, just "to strike terror into the natives and make them friendly to the Spaniards left behind." This done, he said good-by to the colony, telling them how he hoped to find, on his return from Castile, a ton of gold and spices collected by them in their trade with the natives; and "in such abundance that before three years the king and queen may undertake the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre."
On January 4, 1493, just a year after Columbus had been dismissed from Granada for asking to be made Admiral and Viceroy of the undiscovered lands in the west, he turned his back on those lands now discovered and started home. Not, however, with three ships, for we have learned what happened to the Santa Maria; not even with two ships, for we have not yet learned what happened to the Pinta, which Martin Pinzon commanded. Martin had deserted a month before the shipwreck. Yes, that good and capable navigator, who had helped so much to get the expedition started, had struck off with his picked Palos men on a different course, without asking leave from his Admiral. Nor was this all; for according to the Journal, Martin had "by his language and actions occasioned many other troubles." Columbus professes that Pinzon's conduct mystified him. It was on November 21 that the Pinta started off. Columbus could not believe his eyes, he says. Thinking that the ship must soon come back, all that night he "burned a torch, because the night was clear and there was a nice little breeze by which Martin could have come had he wished." But Martin did not wish. He still had hopes, perhaps, of finding Cipango before returning to Spain.
And so, on January 4, when Columbus gave the pilot orders to set the rudder for home, there was left only the smallest caravel of all, the Nina. They kept on among the islands, frequently landing, and had many more adventures before they struck the open sea. Always they asked for gold, and sometimes they learned that it could be procured by journeying "eastward," but more often, "west." In one place they had a new experience—a shower of unfriendly arrows. In another island the soil and trees so nearly corresponded to what Columbus and Pinzon had read of Cipango that Columbus believed for a moment that he had reached Martin's cherished goal; to be sure, there were no golden temples to be seen, but Columbus, always hopeful, was willing to believe that these lay farther inland, near the gold mines. Resolved to investigate on his next voyage, he made accurate notes so as to find this same beautiful harbor again. But the natives who gathered around explained, by signs, that the island was small, and that there were no palaces or bridges. While lingering here, the most remarkable thing happened; for another European caravel led by another explorer entered! Of course it was the Pinta whose captain had been trying to find either Cipango or the mainland. There was nothing for Martin to do but to appear friendly and pretend that his ship had drifted away and got lost. Columbus accepted the excuse, and both ships started direct for home. The last of the Bahamas faded from sight that same day, January 16, and the two tiny caravels were again the only moving objects on the vast, but no longer unknown, Atlantic Ocean.
For nearly a month, that is, until February 13, the passage was calm and monotonous; and as the Pinta was in bad shape again every one was relieved to find the weather so quiet; but on the 13th the wind rose and rose till it lashed the sea into a fury. All day the sailors labored with the angry waves that kept dashing over the decks; and all that night the two lonely little ships kept signaling to each other until they were swept too far apart. When day broke, the Pinta was nowhere to be seen and was sorrowfully given up for lost. But there was no time to mourn; this day was even worse than yesterday, and the Admiral and his sailors, after the custom of their time, made vows that if only the Virgin would intercede with Heaven and save them, they would make a pilgrimage to her shrine of Guadalupe, far north of Sevilla, or go as penitents in procession to the first church they came to after reaching land.
In spite of these appeals, the danger increased every minute, and we may well imagine the agony of the little crew. The intrepid Columbus, who had accomplished a marvelous thing, a feat which would stagger all Europe, seemed destined to go down in mid-ocean with his great discovery! Here was the Pinta sunk and the Nina likely to follow her any minute! Europe would never know that land lay west of her across the Atlantic! And all those timid, doubting men in Spain, who had opposed the expedition from the very first, would shake their heads and say, "Poor men, the sea monsters on the ocean's rim have gobbled them up!" It must have taken every bit of heart out of the brave Admiral to think that Spain would never know how gloriously he had succeeded.
Down into his dark cabin he went, and there, while the little Nina staggered and pitched on the mountainous waves, he steadied his swinging lantern with one hand, and with the other hastily wrote on a parchment what he had done. This he tied in waterproofed cloth, placed it in a wooden cask, and threw it overboard. Then, for fear it might never be washed ashore, he hurriedly prepared a second cask and lashed it to the deck, hoping that the little caravel, even if he and all his men perished, might toss about till it reached the Azores, which he judged must be near. And sure enough, next morning land was in sight, and the sailors shouted for joy though the storm still raged. It was not until the 18th that the sea had subsided sufficiently for them to approach the rocky coast. When finally they were able to cast anchor, they found they were at Santa Maria, one of the Azores group.
The Azores, you will remember, were inhabited by Portuguese. Columbus, knowing there would surely be a church there dedicated to the Virgin, sent half the crew ashore to make the penitential procession they had vowed; but this first boat load were promptly made prisoners by the Portuguese. What a sad reward for religious men who were trying to keep a vow! The governor of the island then ordered Columbus to come ashore and be made prisoner also, which you may be sure he did not do. There was much angry arguing back and forth, for Spain and Portugal were old enemies; but finally the Portuguese governor dropped his high- handedness, sent back the prisoners, and the poor storm-tossed little Nina bravely set out again to cover the many remaining miles between her and Spain.
Even after all their hardships and their sorrow over the loss of their friends on the Pinta, the unhappy mariners were not to be left in peace. After a few days another violent storm beat against them and buffeted them for days, while a terrific wind came and tore their sails away. The poor little Nina, bare-poled, was now driven helpless before the gale. And yet, marvelous to relate, she did not founder, but kept afloat, and on the morning of March 4, sailors and Admiral saw land not far away.
"The Madeiras!" cried some, just as they had cried before when off the Azores.
"Spain!" cried others, more hopefully.
"The Rock of Cintra, near Lisbon!" cried their Admiral, whose power of gauging distances, considering his lack of instruments, was little short of marvelous. And Cintra it was. Again chance brought him to an unfriendly coast, and gave him no choice but to run into the mouth of the Portuguese river Tagus for shelter.
Like wildfire the report ran up and down the coast that a ship had just returned across the Atlantic from the Indies (for the Spanish sailors called the new islands the Indies of Antilla) and of course the ship was full of treasure! In command of this ship was Christopher Columbus, the very man whom King John of Portugal had refused to aid years before! Hundreds of small boats surrounded the little caravel, and the curious Portuguese clambered aboard and asked, among their many eager questions, to be shown the treasures and "Los Indios." The commander of a Portuguese man-of-war anchored near assumed a bullying attitude and ordered Columbus to come aboard the warship and explain why he had dared to cruise among Portugal's possessions. Columbus, more tactful than usual, replied that, being now an Admiral of Spain, it was his duty to remain on his vessel. Meanwhile, he dispatched a courier to the monarchs of Spain with the great tidings; while from the king of Portugal he begged permission to land, and sent word, not that he had, as people were saying, discovered an Atlantic route to the Indies, but that he had sailed to the fabled islands of Antilla in the far Atlantic.
In answer, the king gave permission to land at Lisbon, and invited Columbus to court. Columbus may not have wished to go there, but a royal invitation was a command. On entering the king's presence, the great explorer saw many of the noblemen who, years before, had advised their monarch not to aid him. Our Admiral is not to be blamed, therefore, if he took a deep delight in painting his new world in the rosiest colors possible. His story made king and courtiers feel uncomfortably foolish for not having been willing to take the risk Spain had taken. It was a bitter pill for poor King John to swallow, and straightway his scheming old brain began to hatch a pretext for getting the new lands for himself.
"Pope Martin V.," he reminded his visitor, "conceded to the Crown of Portugal all lands that might be discovered between Cape Bojador and the Indies, and your new discovery therefore belongs to me rather than to Spain."
"Quite right," murmured his courtiers. Then, when Columbus declared he had sailed west and not south, that Spain herself had warned him to keep clear of Portugal's possessions, and that the lands he had discovered were merely Atlantic islands, they all insisted that "the Indies were the Indies, and belonged by papal authority to Portugal!"
Oh, those shifting, indiscriminate, fifteenth-century Indies which Europe invented to explain the unknown world! What misunderstandings resulted from the vague term! Columbus, again tactful, stopped boasting now, and merely observed that he had never heard of this papal treaty, and that the monarchs would have to settle it between themselves. Then he took his departure, with every show of kindliness from the king, including a royal escort. The minute he was gone those courtly, crafty heads all got together and told the king that most likely the man was merely a boaster, but, lest he might have discovered territory for Spain, why not hurriedly send out a Portuguese fleet to seize the new islands ere Spain could make good her claim? Some even whispered something about assassination.
Let us hope that King John turned a deaf ear to them. At any rate, Columbus was not assassinated, perhaps because he thought it safer to trust to his battered little Nina than to cross Portugal by land. Hurrying aboard, he hoisted anchor and started for Palos.
It was on a Friday that Columbus had left Palos; it was likewise on Friday that he had left the Canaries after mending the Pinta's rudder; on Friday he had taken leave of the little settlement of La Navidad away back in Haiti, and now it was on Friday, the 15th of March, that he dropped anchor in the friendly port of Palos.
For the astounded population it was as if the dead had come to life. Every family whose relations had accompanied the expedition had given the sailors up for lost; and lo! here was the man who had led them to their death, bringing a caravel into port. True, forty of the men had been left across the water, and as many more perhaps were under it. Only one ship had come back; but it brought with it the amazing proof that the Atlantic could be crossed! Shops were closed, everybody went to church and rendered praise; bells pealed forth, and the "mad Genoese" was the greatest hero that ever lived; then, as if to give the scene a happy ending, just before sunset of that same famous day, the Pinta, which had not been shipwrecked off the Azores at all, also sailed into the Rio Tinto. Thus did the punishment of Palos end in her witnessing the greatest day of the fifteenth century.
DAYS OF TRIUMPH
Before following our happy Admiral into the presence of the king and queen, let us remain in Palos a little moment with that other courageous navigator, Martin Alonzo Pinzon. Poor Martin was not happy; in fact, he was very miserable. He had slunk from his storm-battered caravel and into his house without saying a word to any one. His wife, overjoyed at seeing him, threw her arms around him.
"Oh, my good Martin!" she exclaimed, "we were mourning you as dead! Cristobal Colon believed that you and your Pinta had gone to the bottom off the Azores!"
"I only wish I had!" groaned Martin, dejectedly. "I only wish I had!"
Perhaps you think he was repenting too deeply of that insubordination off the coast of Cuba, 'way back in November. No, it was not that; Martin had another matter to regret now, more's the pity; for he was a good sailor and a brave, energetic man, ready to risk his life and his money in the discovery. He knew that, next to Columbus, he had played the most important part in the discovery, and he now realized that he was not to share the honor in what he considered the right proportion. He felt ill-used; moreover his health was shattered.
When the two vessels became separated in the storm off the Azores, he concluded just what the Admiral concluded—that the other ship had gone down. He considered it a miracle that even one of those mere scraps of wood, lashed about in a furious sea, should have stayed afloat; but both of them,—no! two miracles could never happen in one night!
And so when he scanned the horizon next morning and saw no Nina, and when he kept peering all that day through the storm and the little Nina never came in sight, a mean idea made its way into Captain Pinzon's brain; and it grew and grew until it became a definite, well- arranged plan.
"The Admiral has gone down with all aboard," he reasoned to himself. "Now, if my ship ever reaches Spain, why shouldn't I say that when Columbus failed to find land seven hundred leagues west of the Canaries, where he expected to find it, I persuaded him to accompany me still farther, and led him to Cipango."
Martin kept nursing this plan of robbing the dead Admiral of glory, until one morning he found himself off the Spanish coast just north of the Portuguese border. Into the little port of Bayona he put, and wrote a letter, and hired a courier to deliver it; that done, he sailed south along Portugal for Palos, probably passing the mouth of the Tagus only a few hours after Columbus, bound for the same port, had turned out into the Atlantic. Martin Pinzon may thank his luck that the Nina started home before him. Imagine his utter shame and confusion had he been the first to enter Palos with his perverted news!
As it was, things were bad enough. He heard the Palos bells ringing, and saw the people thronging along the shore to look at the wonderful little boat that had traveled in such far waters; his heart sank. The Admiral was home, and he, Martin Pinzon, he had sent from Bayona to their Majesties a letter in which were certain false statements. No wonder he sneaked off of his ship in the dusk and wrapped his cape high around his face and hurried to his house. No wonder he felt no happiness in seeing his good wife again, and could only groan and groan.
Martin went to bed—his spirits were very low, and the stormy passage had racked his old body as well; so he lay down; and the next day he could not get up, nor the next; and when, in due time, a royal letter came, thanking him for the aid he had given Columbus, but reproaching him for statements he had made which did not agree with those of the Admiral concerning the voyage, then Martin never wanted to get up again; he had himself carried to La Rabida, where he died in a few days, the good friars comforting him. So no more of Martin Alonzo Pinzon, whose end was inglorious, but whose courage and enterprise were later remembered gratefully by Spain; for Charles V., Queen Isabella's grandson, made public acknowledgment of Pinzon's great services in discovering the New World.
And now to pleasanter things. What has the Admiral been doing since the Palos bells pealed out their joyous welcome to him? First, of course, he greeted the good Friar Juan Perez. And next he dispatched another letter to court announcing his discovery. In fact, he sent several letters; for, as we know, he was an energetic letter-writer; one to their Majesties, one to Luis de Santangel, King Ferdinand's treasurer, who had urged the queen to help him, and one to another friend at court. Here is the beginning of the Santangel letter:—
As I know you will have pleasure in the great success which Our Lord hath given me in my voyage, I write you this by which you shall know that in thirty-three days I passed over to the Indies where I found very many islands peopled with inhabitants beyond number.
"I passed over to the Indies." says the letter. The writer, we see, has decided to give his islands the vague general name that Europe applied to all unknown, distant lands—the Indies. Christopher was always ready to take a chance. If, as he had probably begun to hope, the western path might ultimately lead to India, why not at once adopt that important name?
His letters sent off to court by fast courier, the Admiral himself said good-by to Friar Juan and leisurely followed them. Ferdinand and Isabella, at this time, happened to be in the remotest possible point from Palos, in Barcelona, the great seaport of northeastern Spain. It was a long, long land journey for a seaman to make, but Christopher Columbus did not mind, for every step of it was glory and triumph. He who had once wandered over this same land from city to city, obscure, suspected of being either a visionary or an adventurer, had returned as a great personage, an Admiral of Spain, a Viceroy, a Governor; and, best of all, a practical discoverer instead of a mere dreamer. Every town he passed through acclaimed him a most wonderful man.
Besides, he had brought them proofs of his discovery—those six strange people called "Indians"; these, along with an iguana and some red flamingoes, parrots, and unfamiliar plants, were exhibited in every town, and every town gaped in wonder, and crowded close to get a view of the Admiral and his Indios, and to whisper in awed tones, "and there is much gold, too, but he is not showing that!"
All this was very gratifying to the Admiral; but even more so was his reception when he arrived finally at Barcelona. Here he was met at the city gates by a brilliant company of caballeros, or Spanish nobility, who escorted him and his extraordinary procession through the streets of the quaint old town. We may be sure that the authorities made the most of what the discoverer had brought back; the Indians were ordered to decorate themselves with every kind of color and every kind of feather. The tropical plants were borne aloft, and it was rumored that merely to touch them would heal any sort of malady.
Most imposing of all, there was shown a table on which was every golden bracelet and ornament that had been collected. To be sure, these were not numerous, but everybody hinted to everybody else that they were but a few articles out of Columbus's well-filled treasure-ship. The discoverer himself, richly clad, mounted on a fine horse, and surrounded by gorgeously accoutered caballeros, brought up the rear of this unique procession. What shouting as he passed! and later what reverent thanksgiving! Barcelona was no insignificant little port like Palos, to be stupefied at the wonder of it; Barcelona was one of the richest and most prosperous seaports of Europe, and could look upon the discovery intelligently; and precisely because she herself had learned the lesson that trade meant wealth, she rejoiced that this wonderful new avenue of commerce had been opened for Spain.
The display over, the king and queen invited Columbus to tell his story. Now had arrived the most critical moment since his return; but our Admiral, it is to be regretted, did not realize it, else he would have been more guarded in what he said. He should have told a straightforward tale of what he had done, without one word of exaggeration; but Christopher had a fervid Italian imagination and could never resist exaggerating. So, instead of dwelling on the one stupendous, thrilling fact that he had sailed three thousand miles into the fearsome west and discovered new lands; instead of making them feel that he was great because of what he had done, and letting it go at that, the foolish man filled his narrative with absurd promises of miracles he would perform in the future. But none of it did seem absurd to him! He had persuaded himself, by this time, that west of his poor, uncivilized islands lay richer countries; and so he did not hesitate to assure the sovereigns that he had discovered a land of enormous wealth, and that if they would equip another expedition, he stood ready to promise them any quantity of gold, drugs, and cotton, as well as legions of people to be converted to Christianity.
Indeed, he went much further, and made a solemn vow that he, from his own personal profits in the discovery, would furnish, within seven years, an army of four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot for the purpose of reclaiming the Holy Sepulchre! Imagine a man pledging this, just because he had gathered a few gold bracelets! And yet, as he stood there in all the glamour of the court, with a whole nation regarding him as a wonder, he was so carried away by the situation that he probably actually saw himself leading a triumphant crusade! As for the king and queen, so deeply affected were they that they fell on their knees then and there and poured forth their thanks to God.
The good Bartolome de las Casas (the priest who devoted his life to the Indians) was present and has described this memorable interview. Columbus, he says, was very dignified and very impressive with his snow- white hair and rich garments. A modest smile flitted across his face "as if he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came." When he approached the monarchs, they arose to greet him as though he were the greatest hidalgo in the land; and when he dropped on his knee to kiss their hands, they bade him rise and seat himself in their presence. Surely this was a great day for the humble Genoese sailor. He was Don Cristobal henceforth, with the right to select a noble coat of arms. For his sake his brothers Bartholomew and Diego (James) were to receive appointments, and his son Diego was to be brought to court and educated. Then, after securing the welfare of these members of his family, Columbus wrote to his old father, the wool-comber in Genoa, and sent him some money.
All this shows his good heart toward his own people; for toward one not his own was he guilty of an ignoble act. It was to that sailor Rodrigo, of the Pinta, who had been the first to sight land early on the morning of October 12. When Columbus was asked to whom the queen's promised reward of ten thousand maravedis should go, he replied, "To myself." Surely it could not have been because he wanted the money for its own sake; it did not equal twenty-five dollars, and he had already received a goodly sum on arriving in Barcelona; it must have been that he could not bear to share the glory with another, and so told himself that the light he saw bobbing up and down early that night was carried by a human being, and the human being must have been in a canoe, near the island. On the strength of this argument he claimed the money Rodrigo had expected to receive.
PREPARING FOR A SECOND VOYAGE
Once the story of the first voyage had been digested, all thoughts were turned toward preparations for the next. Indeed, while Columbus was still in Sevilla on his way to Barcelona he had received a letter from the monarchs asking him what they could do to help him accomplish a second voyage, and he had sent them a list of his needs in the way of men, ships, and supplies. This the royal officers now brought out and the sovereigns went over it carefully with their new Admiral.
Now began the test of Don Cristobal Colon, not as an intrepid mariner, but as a business man cooperating with other business men in the colonizing, Christianizing, and commercializing of the new territories. In this matter he was to be associated with the powerful Juan de Fonseca. This Bishop Fonseca was very keen and efficient, but worldly, and vindictive toward those who opposed him in any way. To keep his good will needed much tact. He was not long in deciding that the great navigator had neither tact nor business ability; so he snubbed him accordingly, and made his path a hard one.
Knowing, as we do, that to-day Spain possesses not an inch of territory in the New World she discovered and opened up, that other nations have reaped where she sowed, we are prone to conclude that it was all bad management on her part. But this is not entirely true. So far as colonizing could be managed from the home country, Spain faced her new responsibility with great energy. Immediately a sort of board of trade, or bureau of discovery, was organized, with the capable Bishop Fonseca at its head. This was called the Casa de Contratacion and its headquarters were at Sevilla; for Sevilla, though fifty miles up the Guadalquivir River, is practically a seaport. Cadiz was appointed the official harbor for vessels plying between Spain and the Indies. This meant the decline of proud Barcelona, but naturally a port nearer the Atlantic had to be chosen. Customhouses were established in Cadiz, and special licenses were issued to intending traders. Botanists were called upon to decide which Spanish fruits and vegetables might best be transplanted to the new islands; arrangements were made for shipping horses (which were lacking there), also sheep and cows.
Plans were soon drawn up for towns and cities—not mere log-cabin villages such as the later English and Dutch colonists were content with—and a handsome cathedral was to be begun in Haiti, and filled with paintings and carvings and other works of art. In fact, no material detail was overlooked to make the new settlements worthy of their mother country. Where the effort failed was in selecting the men to be sent out, not in the things sent. If only the proper individuals had been sent to Columbus's islands, all these other details might have taken care of themselves in the course of time.
The second expedition was to be on a very large scale. It had to be assembled quickly lest other nations, learning of the discovery, or the one nation that had already learned of it, might get there first; wherefore Fonseca and Columbus were authorized to buy, at their own price, any boat lying in any port of Andalusia that was suitable for the long journey; if its owner protested against the price named, they had authority to seize it. The same system applied to provisions and other equipment for the voyage—these must be given at the government's price, else the government, represented by Columbus and Fonseca, would seize them. Lastly, these two could compel any mariner to embark on the fleet, and could fix his wages, whether he wished to go or not.
The money for this second expedition came from a source which Spain has no reason to be proud of today, but which she had small reason to be ashamed of in the sixteenth century. It was the confiscated wealth of the Jews who, as enemies of Christianity, had been banished from the kingdom the year before. Columbus's "one eighth of the expense," which by the contract of Santa Fe he was bound to supply, he had no means of furnishing, since he had not yet reached lands rich enough to yield it.
It was at the end of May that Columbus left Barcelona, hoping soon to embark again for his "Indies." There was indeed every reason for haste, since King John of Portugal had lost no time in presenting his claims to Rome.
We have already mentioned the important part which prelates played in the affairs of their countries. Similarly, the Pope played an important part in international affairs; and that is why a Pope had made the Portuguese treaty of 1470, and why King John now sought its enforcement by the present Pope. But Ferdinand and Isabella also were hurrying messengers to Rome. The pontiff at this time happened to be not an Italian but a Spaniard, Alexander Borgia, born a subject of Ferdinand's own kingdom of Aragon. Ferdinand knew well how to judge this shrewd Aragonese character, and what arguments were most likely to appeal to it. He told the Spanish ambassadors to say that Spain would immediately set to work to convert the vast new lands to Christianity; that the Spanish explorers would take great care not to intrude into Portugal's African Indies, which shows how confused geography still was in everybody's mind; and that, whatever the Pope's decision, Spain would defend her discoveries from any other claimant. This being made clear, the ambassadors were to present Ferdinand and Isabella's supplication that a papal bull, or decree, might be issued, granting them all lands discovered in the past and future by their Admiral Don Cristobal Colon. Ferdinand of Spain being now a much more powerful king than John of Portugal, the Pope granted all that Spain asked, but was careful not to admit that Columbus had discovered the real India; for the bull refers only to "insulae et terra firma remota et incognita" or "islands and a remote and unknown mainland."
Meanwhile, all sorts of intrigues were going on between the two monarchs. John had spies at Ferdinand's court to discover the negotiations with Rome, and others to find out how Columbus's preparations were getting along; Ferdinand also sent spies to Portugal. These reported a Portuguese plan for seizing the western lands before Columbus could return to them. This came to nothing, however, through John's fear of the Pope; and well for Spain that John did fear the power of Rome, for it took Columbus so long to gather his second fleet that there would have been ample time for the Portuguese mariners to cross the Atlantic ahead of him.
The very measures that had been devised to help the second departure retarded it. Shipowners and provision dealers, in spite of royal orders, fought for fair prices and would not sell; and as for assembling crews for the ships, the difficulty was not, as in the first expedition, in getting men to go, but in keeping them back. If only Columbus had not talked gold, gold, gold! If only he could have refrained from exaggerating, and had simply stated that he had found some wild islands whose people had not a glimmering of civilization and who possessed but few golden trinkets! Had he not deceived the people and himself, only those would have joined the expedition who had the true, fine, adventurous spirit; or those who, seeking a new home, wished to settle down in new territory and develop it; but instead, men thought only of the vast wealth to be easily picked up—they would not even have to dig for it! Thus the expedition attracted mainly men of doubtful character who wanted to become rich quickly. Others offered themselves who wanted nothing more than excitement and novelty; others had dark schemes of breaking away from all restraint, once they reached the new land, and carrying on any sort of robbery or traffic that might offer profit; while still others were priests who thought only of converting the heathen. If ever men engaged upon an undertaking that required endurance, hard work, sound common sense, and a practical knowledge of how to tackle any task that might present itself, this was the occasion. Yet the men who came forward lacked exactly these indispensable qualities.
No doubt Columbus and Fonseca picked the best of them; but the misfortune was that Columbus, who should have known what the business ahead of them required, did not know how to judge men; and the shrewd archbishop, who did know how to judge men, had no idea what the occasion was going to demand of them; and thus they chose men for the second trip to the new lands who were utterly unsuitable.
Nearly all the two thousand who applied for permission to sail were personally interviewed by the Admiral, which must have taken much time; besides, he was busy buying wheat and flour, hard biscuit, salt pork and fish, cheese, peas, beans, lentils, wine, oil, and vinegar, as well as honey, almonds, and raisins for Don Cristobal's own table. It was just about the same food that a sailing vessel would carry to-day, with the exception of tea and coffee; for Portugal had not then discovered the lands from which these two beverages were to be introduced into Europe.
All these preparations were watched by two eager-faced boys who no doubt often said to each other, "I hope father will think us old enough to go with him on his next voyage!" For the Admiral had brought little Diego and Fernando along to Sevilla and Cadiz, so that he might see them every day before the long separation.
Finally, on September 25, 1493, all was ready and the anchors were hoisted. How different it was from that first fearful sailing out of Palos in 1492. This time the fleet was magnificent; seventeen vessels, all newly calked and painted; about fifteen hundred men, all happy and hopeful; and on shore, instead of a populace wringing its hands in dismay, a populace cheering and making music and flying banners, and actually envying the lucky ones who were starting off to the wonderful new lands where they could pick up gold!
FINDING NEW ISLANDS
With the departure of this second expedition for the "western lands" Columbus's brief season of glory ended. Neither home-comings nor departures would ever be the same for him again; for behind him he left a few jealous enemies, potent to do him harm, and with him he took men of such unstable character that more enmity was sure to spring up. These last he held with a firm hand as long as the voyage lasted; Christopher could always control men at sea, but on land it was another matter. Even though he might have clear notions of the difficulty of planting a colony in new territory, how would these adventurers, and these high- born young gentlemen who had never worked, and these hundred wretched stowaways who, after Columbus had refused to take them, had hidden in the vessels until well out to sea—how would all these behave when it was time to fell trees, build houses, dig ditches, and cut roads? And then again, good Admiral, why did you make the great mistake of bringing no women colonists with you? How could men found homes and work when there were no wives and little ones to be housed and fed?
Of the better sort who accompanied this second expedition there were a few, but only a few, solid, reliable individuals whose society must have been a comfort to the Admiral; among them, the faithful Juan de la Cosa, the Palos pilot; James Columbus, or as the Spaniards called him, Diego Colon, faithful to his celebrated brother, but unfortunately somewhat stupid; Antonio de las Casas, father of the young priest who later became the champion of the Indians and who wrote Columbus's biography; Juan Ponce de Leon, an intrepid aristocrat who was destined to discover Florida; and Doctor Chanca, a physician and botanist who was to write an account of the vegetables and fruits of the western lands. These vegetables included the "good tasting roots either boiled or baked" which we know as potatoes. Most daring of all the company was a young nobleman named Alonzo de Ojeda. Alonzo was a real adventurer, willing to face any danger or hazard.
Columbus, on leaving Spain, again headed for the Canaries, this time for the purpose of taking on sheep, goats, swine, and other domestic animals to stock the new lands; then off again for the real business of crossing the Atlantic. Gold being the thought uppermost in every mind—even in the mind of the Admiral—the rudders were set southwest for the Caribbean Islands.
These, the natives of Haiti had told him, were full of gold; at least, that is how Columbus interpreted the signs the Haitians made when he asked for gold; and so, instead of hurrying to cheer up those forty men he left at La Navidad, he steered to a point considerably south of Haiti and reached the Caribbeans precisely; which, it will be seen, was a far greater test of nautical skill than merely to sail anywhere into the west, as he had done on the first voyage.
The sea nearly all the way across was deliciously smooth and the trade wind soft and steady; only once was there bad weather; very bad while it lasted and very terrifying to those who had never before been at sea; but it happened that, during the storm, the electric phenomenon known as the Light of St. Elmo was seen over the rigging of the Mari-ga- lan'te, the Admiral's ship, and all that horde of superstitious men were reassured and considered it a sign that the expedition was divine protection.
Yet a little later, when the water supply ran low, and when there were so many leaks in the vessels that the pumps were working constantly, they began to grumble. But Columbus, who was a magician at reckoning sea distance, laughed at their alarm and said to them, "Drink all the water you like; we shall reach land in forty-eight hours." Next day no land appeared, but still he spoke confidently and ordered them to take in sail and slow down. That was at sunset, on Saturday, November 2; Sunday morning, November 3, the sun rose on a beautiful verdant island only a few leagues ahead of them. The magician had fairly scented land from afar!
This little island, Dominica he called it, had no harbor; but what did that matter since another island lay alongside it, to the north. Here they landed and took possession in the name of Spain—not only of the one island but of five or six more which were visible from a little hill. On this spot, which they christened Marigalante, there were no inhabitants; so, after waiting only long enough to feast on new, luscious fruits, they sailed to the next island, which they called Guadaloupe.
And here the Spaniards began to learn what real savagery meant. Only women and children appeared to inhabit the island, and these fled inland at the strangers' approach. This afforded an excellent opportunity for the visitors to look into the native huts and see how these wild people lived. Hammocks of netting, earthenware dishes, and woven cotton cloth were found; but along with these rudiments of civilization something else was found that made the Europeans look at each other in horror— human bones left from a recent feast!
The next day they landed at a different island, for these Caribbeans all lie close together. Here the deplorable business of kidnapping began again, and quite legitimately, the Spaniards thought, for were not the miserable creatures cannibals? A young boy and three women were captured, and from these Columbus learned that the people of the two islands he first visited, along with a third he had not yet come to, had formed a league among themselves to make war on the remainder of the islands. That was why all the men happened to be absent at the time of the Spanish landing. They had gone off in their canoes to capture women as wives, and men and children to be killed and eaten!
The fact that the warriors of this island were absent emboldened a party of nine Spaniards to penetrate inland in search of gold; secretly, too, without the Admiral's knowledge or consent. Night came and the nine men had not returned. The crew were naturally anxious to leave the island before its man-eating population returned, but the majority were willing to await their lost companions. Next day Alonzo de Ojeda, who said he was not afraid of cannibals, led a search party clear across the island, but without success; not until the third anxious day had passed did the gold seekers get back to the ship. They had paid dearly for their adventure, having been utterly lost in a tangled forest, without food, torn and scratched by brambles, and fearing all the time that the fleet would give them up for dead and sail without them.
A week having now been passed among the cannibals, Columbus decided to give up gold-hunting and go and greet the colony at La Navidad. His captives told him that the mainland lay south, and had he not grown anxious about the men he had left the year before, he might have sailed south and found South America; but instead he headed north, stopping sometimes at intermediate islands. Once again they tried capturing some natives whom they saw on the shore, but these Carib women were wonderful archers, and a number of them who managed to upset their canoe and swim for liberty shot arrows as they swam. Two of the Spaniards were thus wounded.
Not until the 22d of November did the fleet come in sight of Haiti— about a month later than if they had come direct from the Canaries. Many islands, including Porto Rico, had been discovered and named before they finally touched Espanola and began sailing along its northern coast to where the Santa Maria had been wrecked. Although no gold had been found, all the men on the boats were confident that quantities of it would have been collected during the year by the men at La Navidad; and so great content reigned on all the ships.